“It takes one to know one” might be a key campaign message used against President Obama and Democrats running for office in the midterm elections in November and again in 2016.
President Obama ran for years against the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush – while he first ran for office in 2008, throughout his first term, and well past his reelection in 2012 – most especially regarding Bush’s economic policies and the War on Terror fought in Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade.
Six years into his own administration, there is nowhere for Obama to hide, as he has to own the outcome of his economic policies, try as he might to demonstrate that it’s all outside of his control and started with Bush. As time and this economy has dragged on, fewer and fewer Americans will tolerate blaming Bush when Obama’s economic policies could have and should have given us robust growth in the economy by now.
There is also an extraordinary irony related to Bush-blaming and the new antiterrorism campaign against the so-called Islamic State, which the administration is now begrudgingly calling a war (uh-oh, doesn’t that mean it needs constitutional authorization from Congress?). This irony has not been addressed in any news reporting or editorial commentary to date about the new war to destroy ISIS.
If President Obama had reached a Status of Forces Agreement to allow thousands of US troops to remain in Iraq on an ongoing basis, it not only may have staved off the expansion of ISIS into Iraq from its base of operations over the Syrian border, but it also would have always remained Bush’s war.
Since the war dove Obama ran in 2008 in part to end our protracted engagement in Iraq, as soon as he could justify it, he was going to remove every last pair of army boots from the sands of Iraq. Once he actually began to do so as he was approaching reelection in 2012, he left a power vacuum that the al Qaeda-affiliated ISIS has since filled. This now requires US intervention in Iraq and Syria.
Therefore, this is now remarkably Obama’s own war – completely, exclusively, and unquestionably – and he can never blame Bush for this one.
Oh sure, he can try to claim that he wouldn’t have to conduct airstrikes to combat ISIS if Bush had never invaded Iraq in 2003, but even the most shameless politician will have a tough job of selling that argument to anyone as we approach the last two years of Obama’s time in office.
After railing against Bush’s war for all of these years, Obama now has one of his very own. He must be kicking himself, realizing that if he had left even one soldier on the ground in Iraq, he could still blame Bush, but no more.
While support among Republicans and Democrats for a military campaign against ISIS is extremely high (just as support invading Iraq was in 2003, by the way), this war has barely begun, and the administration already acknowledged that President Obama’s successor will be fighting this one long after he has left office. Because support for it is high, we may not yet see “It takes one to know one” campaign messages in any but a few races this fall, but that will eventually change as the war drags on and we enter the 2016 presidential campaign starting November 5, 2014.
As this war takes hold though, keep something else in mind. War is messy. Unfortunately, things easily go wrong. Terribly wrong. As some days of this war will be far worse than others, Obama’s sole ownership of this one will be magnified more and more. No matter how this one turns out, let’s hope and pray that it claims little treasure and much less blood of America’s military service members in the process.
Nonetheless, Obama’s conundrum of having to face down terrorism in Iraq after he pulled our troops from there will create a great deal of political fodder for campaigning in 2016 to pick his successor.
While much will be made about the fact that Obama has a war exclusively of his own making after condemning his predecessor’s war in Iraq, we can only hope though that we will not be subject to another Commander in Chief who will blame his predecessor as Obama has for all of these years.
No matter what, Obama is now in the war-making business, and as necessary as this war may be to keep terrorists from attacking our own shores, he will ultimately be held accountable in the eyes of America and the pages of history books for this one, particularly as campaign politics take over leading in to 2016.